Having just experienced my 12th Father’s Day (for the record, we went camping at McGregor Point, I stayed off my iPhone, didn’t bring a laptop and the weather was perfect), I find myself reflecting on the importance of the day for those of us who are SAHDs. That’s Stay At Home Dads, for the acronymically challenged.
I held the traditional father role for most of my years as a parent, working 9-5 and spending what time I could with my family, in between trying to help keep up with the housework, cooking, taking vehicles in for service, taking the dogs to the vet, yard work, home reno projects and all the other things that suck up time when you’re off in a cubicle (and driving to and from a cubicle) eight hours or more every day. A few years ago, I joined a somewhat exclusive club, the SAHDs.
It wasn’t that long ago, that a SAHD was considered almost a statistical anomaly. According to a study by Statistics Canada (recently referenced in the Globe and Mail), there were only 20,000 SAHDs in Canada in 1976. That number has been slowly increasing, but received a significant boost during the recent “he-cession,” when over 80 percent of job losses hit men. In Canada, the numbers have risen to 60,000 in 2011. To put things in comparison, in the seventies, one in 100 stay-at-home parents in Canada were fathers, while today that ratio is one in eight. The most recent stats I could find for the US came from the 2010 Census, in which 154,000 men reported being stay-at-home dads. That’s still a pretty impressive number, but considering that the population of the US is nearly 10 times that of Canada, that Canadian total really stands out —it would be the equivalent of having nearly 600,000 SAHDs in the US.
I don’t know why the difference between the countries. Canadian fathers do have the opportunity to take a parental leave when their children are born and that may have something to do with it. However, what I do know is that after spending the past two and a half years as a SAHD, I can’t see myself ever giving it up.
I see my kids off to school every morning, make them a hot lunch most days and I’m here when they’re finished in the afternoon. I have an office in the basement (complete with my name plate swiped from my previous office) where I work when I’m not hanging out with the dogs in the back yard or working in the living room. In the summers, I take a laptop and get in some writing while I can from beside a pool, on the beach or at a campground while the kids have fun and wear themselves out. Most of those time-consuming errands and projects are now handled during the day too, leaving evenings and weekends largely free to do fun stuff. True, I get less (paying) work done during the day than my 9-5 in the traditional cubicle —trying to work above the din of three kids tearing through the house playing tag or the inevitable fights over whose turn it is to play whatever is in demand at the moment can wear me down at times and there’s always those projects and errands to deal with— but the days are rewarding enough that I don’t mind spending a few hours late at night or during downtime to catch up. It’s a pretty good trade-off and my wife seems happy with the arrangement.
Which takes me to Father’s Day, which used to be very special because it was designated time to spend with my kids. It still is a special day, but not in quite the same way. Since I’ve been a SAHD, I’ve come to consider most days to be Father’s Day, at least on some level. Guys, if you ever have the opportunity to try this gig, I highly recommend it.